Calls to halt Disability Living Allowance reform ahead of Lords vote
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Local Government
Call to halt Disability Living Allowance reform ahead of Lords vote
The Government is facing calls to pause its planned reform of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) amid a fierce backlash from disabled people and charities.
The Government wants to save millions of pounds a year by replacing DLA with the less generous Personal Independence Payment (PIP) from 2013, which, according to ministers, will be more "effectively targeted to those in greatest need". It will also see claimants reassessed for eligibility.
However, the release of a report last week - revealing strong opposition from disabled people, charities and other interested groups - has led to calls from a coalition of charities (see below) for a pause to the reforms so the report's questions can be answered.
The 'Responsible Reform' report, written by disabled people themselves, found that cutting DLA expenditure by 20% would mean a significant loss of income to large numbers of disabled people who would lose valuable support.
It also attacked the Government for "ignoring" the voices of disabled people after it revealed that only seven per cent of organisations that took part in the consultation were fully in support of plans to replace DLA with PIP.
Matthew Lester, Director of Operations at Papworth Trust - one of the charities calling for a halt to the reforms, said: "We support the report's concerns that the decision to reduce DLA by 20% may have been based on incomplete or misleading data about the reasons for growth in DLA. Our survey of over 2,200 people found that almost 9 out of 10 would have to cut back on essentials such as food or being able to get out and about if their DLA payments were reduced or stopped. This proposed 20% cut will push more disabled people into poverty.
"This report was entirely researched, written, funded and supported by the people that these changes will affect. We believe that there should be a pause so that the questions it raises can be answered."
The Government is understood to be offering further concessions to its DLA reform tomorrow when it and its replacement will be debated again the House of Lords.
Its Welfare Reform Bill has come up against stiff opposition in the Lords so far. Last week the Government was defeated three times over proposed changes to eligibility for employment support allowance (ESA), formerly known as incapacity benefit.
Now it has emerged that Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud has added his name to a further amendment, halving the time seriously ill or disabled people will have to wait to be eligible for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) from six to three months.
Under original Government plans this was to be extended to six months. Incidentally, the 'Responsible Reform' report revealed that 98 per cent of those who responded to the Government's consultation opposed plans to change the qualifying period for PIP from three months (as it is with DLA) to six months.
Furthermore, it's understood plans to remove a payment helping disabled people in care homes with travel costs will also be dropped.
Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of Scope, welcomed the decision not to increase the qualifying period for Personal Independence Payments.
He said: "We're delighted that the Government has chosen to listen to disabled people's concerns over the qualifying period for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
"It means the Government has recognised that asking disabled people to wait for six months before they can claim much-needed financial support, following the development of a condition or impairment, is unfair and unreasonable.
"However, we continue to have concerns over other aspects of PIP, including the tick-box-style assessment the Government plans to use, which will repeat the same mistakes as the Work Capability Assessment."
The Department for Work and Pensions insists that disabled people who need support will get it.
It says that the "inefficient" DLA system is leading to both over and underpayments.
The coalition of charities calling for a pause to the disability benefit cuts are:
Action on Hearing Loss
Campaign for a Fair Society
Disability Rights UK
Leonard Cheshire Disability
The National Autistic Society
Rethink Mental Illness
The Westminster Society